Leading the Fight for LGBT Immigration Equality

Press Release

By:  John Kerry
Date: April 6, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today led 11 colleagues in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano urging immigration equality for legally married same-sex couples who are currently discriminated against under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

"We applaud the President's decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court," the Senators wrote. "With DOMA as law, however, we are creating a tier of second-class families in states that have authorized same-sex marriage. The same second-class status is imposed upon marriages between same-sex partners in which one spouse is not a U.S. citizen. We urge you to reconsider this position in light of the administration's position that it will no longer defend DOMA in federal court."

"Immigration Equality, and the families we represent, are enormously grateful to Senator Kerry and his colleagues for calling on the Administration to keep our families together," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law. "Unless USCIS changes course, real families will be impacted, and American citizens will be separated from their loved ones. Maintaining the status quo for these families will mean forcing them apart, or into exile. We call on USCIS to heed the advice of Senator Kerry, and the other signatories on today's letter, and allow these loving, committed couples to remain together."

In light of the Obama Administration's decision to stop defending DOMA in federal court, the Senators urged:

* The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance pending a legislative repeal or a final determination on DOMA litigation.

* DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion in commencing and prosecuting removal proceedings against married noncitizens that would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA.

* The Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA.

The full text of the letter is below:

April 6, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Attorney General Secretary
Department of Justice Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20393

Dear Mr. Attorney General and Madam Secretary:

We applaud the President's decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. The law discriminates against a class of Americans, raising fundamental questions of over basic civil rights. However, the administration is still enforcing DOMA, because it is the law of the land.

Five states plus the District of Columbia, have granted same-sex couples the right to get married. With DOMA as law, however, we are creating a tier of second-class families in these states that have authorized same-sex marriage.

The same second-class status is imposed upon marriages between same-sex partners in which one spouse is not a U.S. citizen. The new administration policy has created confusion and uncertainty in the immigration context. In recent days, the administration issued conflicting statements about how it will consider immigration petitions from same-sex married couples seeking immigration benefits for a non-citizen spouse. As of March 30, 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services clarified that marriage-based petitions will be considered under current law, with DOMA preventing recognition of otherwise-valid and lawful same-sex marriages.

We urge you to reconsider this position in light of the administration's position that it will no longer defend DOMA in federal court. Specifically, we ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance pending a legislative repeal or a final determination on DOMA litigation. In addition, we ask DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion in commencing and prosecuting removal proceedings against married noncitizens that would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA.

Preserving family unity is a fundamental American value and is also the cornerstone of our nation's immigration law. Thank you for your consideration of this request.